Review – American Gods: Shadows #9 (Dark Horse)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russel,
Artist(s): Scott Hampton, Rick Parker, Glenn Fabry , Adam Brown
Release Date: 15th November 2017

Neil Gaiman is a very busy man. Currently supervising the filming of the long awaited adaptation of his and the late Terry Practchet’s Good Omens, he also has the second season of American Gods to look forward to promoting. Add to that his writing for the odd Doctor Who episode, lecture tours, raising his son, all while writing about 5 books at once, and  was amazed he had time to put his name to a second adaptation of his original novel American Gods. However, having read it that’s not strictly true.

While the story and words are straight from the Gaiman’s mouth, the team behind the Dark Horse adaptation have painstakingly cherry-picked the bulk of the story to better fit into a multiple issue format, something I both admire and deeply respect in this day and age of reboots and movie/TV tie-ins. It could have been very tempting to re-jig the characters for the TV show, altering them to look more like the actors and storyline of the show. However, this long running series remains a true homage to the original masterpiece of modern American folklore.

Reading these issues has filled me with the same immense enjoyment I felt while initially reading the book all those years ago on a road trip across the states. P. Craig Russel has done a brilliant job in boiling down the original chapters of the book into nine issues, ensuring they hit all the same notes whilst speeding up the pace for each chapter (a quicker pace than that of the TV show I must add, so I’ll try to do away with spoilers).

Issue 9 picks up with Shadow still living with Jaquel and Ibis, waiting for the return of Mr Wednesday to continue their journey. After a brief encounter we learn of the death of one of the most well-known characters of the story so far, and the rest of the issue is a beautifully played out, bittersweet wake for the lost soul hosted by Shadow and the two Egyptian Gods.

Like all the issues so far, the story blends the lines between our reality and a weird mythical dream. Scott Hampton has a uniquely realistic approach to drawing the characters which is something of a match made in heaven for the source martial. It moves away from the traditional ‘comicbook ‘look of superheroes and shows the characters in a more realistic form, with that David Lloyd-type watercolour edge that seamlessly slips into fantasy from time to time. This perfectly recreates how I felt reading the original novel, with a realistic depiction of the real America with the gods of old trying to find relevance with the modern age. For an adaptation, it continues that weird dream-like feeling because you’re seeing the characters brought to life on the page pretty much exactly how they’re described in the book, almost like the creators have plucked the images straight from your head.

The beauty of the drawings and the perfect retelling of this ‘old friend’ of a story means that each issue has that rare feeling of reading an actual novel rather than just a single issue. I want the months to pass quicker so I can continue this story for probably the thirtieth time. It’s so good that you’ll find yourself either wanting to pick up the original book between issues, or grabbing your backpack and jumping on the American highway in search of the gods yourself.

Rating: 5/5.

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The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
Indy Tweets from @smokingpunkindy

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